I’ve helped out with a fair amount of bake sales and one of the things that always surprises me is the lack of savory pastries. I mean, I understand that people love sweets. I love sweets. But when the bake sale starts at 9 am, not everyone wants a cookie. Even if it is the best chocolate chip cookie ever.
I figured this one out a while ago and since then I’ve pretty much exclusively made savory treats when asked to contribute to a bake sale fundraiser. I’m not even very creative about it. I always make the same thing – Jalapeno Cheddar Scones. And it always disappears within an hour or two, long before anyone wants to face a pink cupcake.
Why jalapeno cheddar and not some other flavor? Well honestly it’s because I always have cheddar in the house and live around the corner from a bodega that sells chiles for pennies. Scones lend themselves to pretty much any filling so don’t feel penned it – chive and bacon, Feta and caramelized onion, pretty much anything goes.
In reality, a scone is pretty much a more flexible biscuit. Biscuits almost always use milk or cream as the liquid and generally get cut into cute round shapes. Scones can use almost anything for liquid and just get cut into pieces. Much easier to handle.
Over the years I’ve figured out a recipe that doesn’t take long and uses things I generally keep in the house. I don’t have a lot of milk around because it tends to go bad before we can drink it. But we go through a lot of yogurt and there’s always a carton around. Combined with an egg and some water it makes the perfect binder to bring the dough together.
My method for adding the filling is courtesy of Cooks Illustrated although the original recipe is for blueberry scones. It’s the easiest way to make sure every bite is full of goodies and is especially good for wet fillings that can make a mess of the dough.
I won’t say these are better than the delicious sweet goodies that often grace a bake sale table but they are surely welcome amongst all the sugar. Or make them up at home because they’re good any time of day.
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
3 jalapenos, finely diced
1 tbs all-purpose flour
9 oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter, cold and cut into 16 cubes
Combine the cheddar and jalapenos in a large bowl with the tablespoon of flour. Toss it together so everything is coated with flour* and set it aside.
Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the rest of the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, egg, and water.
Add the butter cubes to the bowl of flour and work it in like your fingers as if it were pie dough. Mix gently until the butter is coating the flour and there are still some pea size chunks of butter left.
When the butter is evenly distributed in the flour, add about three-quarters of the liquid and stir to combine using a wooden spoon or your hands. If the mixture doesn’t form a shaggy dough add more liquid until it does. It’s ok for the dough to be fairly wet since when you roll it out it will get a heavy dose of flour.
Once the dough is mixed, let it sit for 5 minutes to rest. Then coat a board or flat surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the dough with flour too and roll it out into a square about 10 by 10 inches.
Sprinkle the dough with the jalapeno cheddar mixture and press it down to make sure it sticks. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter and then in thirds the other way to make a small square.
Roll out the dough again – for a bake sale I like to roll it back out to the 10 by 10 and make 36 small triangular scones for selling, if I make them at home I roll it out to a 10 by 4 rectangle and make 8 larger scones.
Cut the scones out in your desired shape and size and place them on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. When they’re slightly brown on top and browner on bottom and puffed up, take them out and let them cool either on the pan or on a cooling rack. Don’t lose the little crispy cheese bits around the edges; they’re the best part.
* Coating the filling with flour will help it stick to the dough later on.